Lord Ryeford has been in fantastic form this summer, so much so that trainer Tom George believes that his charge will be a force to reckon with in the £50,000 Dick Francis “Silks” Handicap Chase (3.25pm) at Cheltenham on Saturday, October 18.
The eight-year-old was under three lengths fourth to Knowhere in last year’s renewal of the extended two and a half-mile contest, the feature race of The Showcase, Cheltenham’s 2008/2009 season curtain-raiser, which takes place on Friday, October 17 and Saturday, October 18.
The Dick Francis “Silks” Handicap Chase is named after the former royal jockey turned thriller writer (and his new novel) and the contest is the ideal trial for the £150,000 Grade Three Paddy Power Gold Cup, which takes place over the same course and distance at The Open on Saturday, November 15.
Lord Ryeford has successfully mixed hurdling and chasing in the past few months, winning three of his last five starts, including a handicap hurdle over an extended two and a half miles at Uttoxeter on September 21. As well as a chasing success over three furlongs shorter at Stratford in May, George’s charge posted a career best effort when third to the well-regarded Snoopy Loopy in the Listed Lord Mildmay Memorial Chase at Newton Abbott in August.
The trainer, based locally to Prestbury Park at Slad, Gloucestershire, revealed today: “Lord Ryeford is the one I would say we’re considering running. At this stage, he’s my most likely runner at The Showcase because the ground will be alright for him. He doesn’t like the soft ground when it comes, so we’re looking to run him in the Dick Francis “Silks” Handicap Chase again.
“He won nicely over hurdles last time and I was very pleased with that run. He’s in great form and I think he has the improvement to go on from that and better last year’s effort.
“I’ll sit down and look at any others I might consider running, depending on the ground and how the horses are progressing.”
The Showcase offers a feast of high-quality racing over two days, providing a perfect opening to Cheltenham’s new season.
The seven-race card on Friday commences at 2.20pm with the £10,000 Lemington Novices’ Hurdle. The £25,000 Jewson Novices’ Handicap Hurdle Final takes place at 3.30pm and was won in 2007 by the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Platin Grounds.
Twiston-Davies saddled three winners on last season’s opening day, including Ardaghey in the day’s feature, the three miles, half a furlong £30,000 IG Index Handicap Chase (For the Studd Challenge Cup) (4.05pm).
The trainer went on to collect two more victories on day two of The Showcase, including the Dick Francis “Silks” Handicap Chase with Knowhere, who subsequently took third in the Grade Three Paddy Power Gold Cup at The Open before triumphing in the Grade Two Letheby & Christopher Chase at Cheltenham in January.
Saturday’s fantastic seven-race card kicks off at 2.20pm with the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars “Help For Heroes” Handicap Hurdle over two miles, five furlongs. Recently retired jump jockey Mick Fitzgerald has a race named after him at 4.00pm, the £10,000 Mick Fitzgerald Novices’ Hurdle.
The concluding race is the Betfair Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race (5.45pm), won in 2007 by the Paul Nicholls-trained Oberon Moon, subsequently successful in the Endsleigh Insurance Novices’ Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham’s April Meeting.
This year, The Showcase also coincides with the famous Cheltenham Literature Festival, which runs from October 10 to 19. Famous names such as Julie Walters, Roger Moore, Sheila Hancock, Ray Mears, John Barrowman and Richard Attenborough are appearing at events in The Centaur.
Additionally, The Showcase Exhibition brings together information about breeding, owning, training, riding and caring for horses in their retirement, plus demonstrations covering aspects as diverse as how a horse is saddled and how a fence is built. Prior to racing, racegoers can visit the parade ring and the weighing room and even win the chance to judge the Best Turned Out horse in a race, watch a race as an owner or make a trophy presentation.
Meeting - The Showcase, Cheltenham Racecourse
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